Bugs found away from the keyboard

I was walking along the beach when the idea of a bug came to me. I hadn’t been consciously thinking of the application I’d been testing but I stopped walking and thought through the scenario.

The next day, I walked into the office, pulled up to a test PC, executed the series of steps I’d thought of and watched the system crash.

It was a thrill. I felt like I had outwitted the program. I felt smart.

I told my boss about my find. He had asked me just a couple months before if my testing had evolved to the state where I was able to find bugs when I was away from the keyboard. This was back in 1995 and at time, I didn’t understand his question.

A few months later, his question made sense to me. Did I have to be at the keyboard or even in the office working on a test plan to find a bug? Not anymore.

There have been many different applications and for that matter, many different bosses since then. I continue to find bugs when I’m located in a variety of places but the thrill of finding a good bug is still a thrill. The bugs found away from the keyboard. They are the sweetest ones.

Well, this was true story. But to stay true to “what’s in my blog?” what techniques can I share to help other testers develop skills to find bugs away from the keyboard? Here are three:

First, step away from the keyboard. Office life can be stifling and creativity is hard to develop if you work in an office where crazy beliefs such as you’re only working if you’re seated prevail.

Second, talk to people. People like database administrators and customer support can give you all sorts of ideas about what can go wrong. Problems from the past can become embedded in your head and help you find issues with the new release, new product, etc. Talk productively and it’s not disruption, it’s smart.

Third, be creative. How? Take a complex aspect of the application you’re testing and puzzle over it in your mind. Let your mind wander. Don’t focus on finding test cases; focus on understanding the system and different test conditions will likely come into focus.

When your testing evolves to being able to find bugs away from the keyboard, the thrill will have you addicted to testing. For me, the thrill continues.

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